A Letter To Job Seekers From A Small Business Owner

These things will make a manager put a resume in the "second look" pile.

Recently, a company of which I am a director, advertised to fill two positions. The advertisements were only posted on Facebook – on local community Facebook pages. 

As expected, the applicants started to flood in almost immediately. The positions advertised were in an area that has been hit very hard by the downturn in the Australian resources industry, and a chronic shortage of people to do any job at all has turned into an unemployment problem. 

The quality of many of the applications was breathtaking – breathtakingly bad. 

All of which, unfortunately for the applicants, fell at the first hurdle. The positions are with a science company, where accuracy is of paramount importance. So, all the applications that screamed “I don’t pay attention to detail and I don’t care how sloppy my work is” went straight out. 

I’m sure that there are approximately a billion articles and posts on the internet about how to do a decent job at an employment application. I’m also reasonably sure that all the people who applied are computer and internet users – I know because I Googled them. I was so taken aback by the quality of so many of the applications, I thought I would add my voice to all those existing articles – the point of view of a small business owner who is looking to recruit a new team member. 

Here are 12 things to double-check before submitting your application: 

  1. Remember that the small business owner is not just the owner, but will also be the HR Manager, the Finance Manager, the Administration Manager …. This person does not have a dedicated HR department to sift through thousands of job applications, so those that are not immediately of interest just won’t even get a second look. 
  2. If you can’t spell – find someone who can. The list of misspelled words was impressive, and far too long for me to put them all here. Of particular note was one person who could “wok safely at heights”. This must be a new Asian cooking technique with which I am not yet familiar.  
  3. If you can’t use capital letters correctly – find someone who can. The name of every Australian town and city is capitalised. There is no Mount eliza or port fairy. 
  4. If you cannot use the correct grammar to construct a sentence, find someone who can. “I seen your job advertisement…” is not an impressive way to start an application. 
  5. Check the name of the company you are applying to, and spell it correctly. 
  6. Check the name of the companies you have worked for previously, and spell them correctly. Wesfarmers is a well-known Australian company that operates a coal mine. West farmers is not. 
  7. If you are telling me that you have a great eye for detail, check your application for really, really obvious errors – like “… i have a great eye for detail.” 
  8. Include a Cover Letter. Always include a Cover Letter. An attachment entitled “My Latest Resume” won’t get your potential employer’s attention. 
  9. Don’t tell me your life story. The fact that you are doing up a 2006 car is of no interest to me. I want you to do some science work. 
  10. If you are including the names of Referees (I accept that there are different schools of thought on this), please do them the courtesy of spelling their names correctly. 
  11. Know that your Facebook profile is the first place your potential new boss will look. Even those small business owners who aren’t “Facebook savvy” have a daughter, son or employee who is. Discretion prevents me from repeating some of the Facebook posts we encountered. 
  12. Use an appropriate email address. hotandsexy69@yahoo.com does not send the right signals. 

I have to point out that, in addition to the shockers, we also received some excellent applications.

Here are the things that will make a busy small business owner want to put a resume in the “second look” pile.

  1. Absence of the above indiscretions.
  2. A Cover Letter and application that show the applicant has read through the job description, understood what their role would be in the company, and how their previous experience would help them to fulfill that role.
  3. The applicant has taken the time to actually look at their potential employer’s website and/or social media profiles.
  4. The potential employee has taken the trouble to have a resume professionally presented. These stand out like a shining beacon in a sea of appalling mediocrity. To the small business owner, someone who has taken the care to present themselves well, will have a better chance of taking care with the company’s image as well.

Use the internet for something other than cat videos and rants on Facebook and Instagram. Use it to look up how to present a job application that won’t be one of the first into the trash. 

Your potential employer, as a small business owner, is already immersed in crocodiles up to their nether regions. If you want them to notice you in a nice way and give you a job, do all that you can to help your application float to the top.



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